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'Every minute counts'
Public unaware of stroke warning signs

LAWRENCEVILLE - Although stroke is the third leading cause of death in the nation - and a leading cause of disability - research suggests the public remains unaware of its warning signs and the need for immediate medical attention, even if the symptoms subside.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood - and oxygen - it needs, thus it begins to die. Symptoms of stroke include sudden difficulty walking, talking, reaching and seeing, as well as sudden and severe headache.

The American Academy of Neurology, the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Stroke Association have teamed up to raise awareness about the warning signs of stroke and the importance of getting prompt medical care with the campaign, "Give Me 5: Walk, Talk, Reach, See, Feel." May is National Stroke Awareness month.

The steps include:

· Walk - Is their balance off?

· Talk - Is their speech slurred or face droopy?

· Reach - Is one side weak or numb?

· See - Is their vision all or partly lost?

· Feel - Is their headache severe?

"If you know the warning signs and get medical help right away, you have an excellent chance of making a good recovery," said Susan Gaunt, stroke program coordinator and clinical nurse specialist with Gwinnett Medical Center.

Women should be especially vigilant, since they account for almost 70 percent of the deaths from stroke, she said.

"Saving someone's life - or even your own - may be as simple as remembering 'Give Me 5,'" Gaunt said. "Do not ignore symptoms; call 911 immediately to ensure quick arrival at the emergency department. With a stroke, every minute counts."